The Cultural and Structural Determinants of Police Decision- Making
When the police are called to a dispute between partners or expartners they try to decide on the best course of action to achieve the quickest and most effective resolution to the conflict. The dispute may or may not have involved violence or damage to property, the conflict may appear to have subsided or may be occurring as the officers arrive, the victim may be 'requesting' that the officers arrest her partner, or she may be uninterested in, or opposed to, police action. Accordingly, the police can use their legal powers to arrest one of the disputants, they can attempt to mediate, or they can decide that it is not a police matter and leave. Research has shown that the typical response during the 1980s was to leave without arresting anyone. Indeed, the most rigorous study conducted during this period found only a 2 per cent arrest rate for incidents of domestic violence ( Edwards 1986).
Since Edwards conducted her research the Home Office has insisted on 'the need to treat domestic violence as seriously as other forms of violence' ( 1990/60 Circular, para. 11), and stated that 'the arrest and detention of the alleged assailant should . . . always be considered' (para. 16 (d)). The Thames Valley study, conducted three years after the publication of this policy, found that 17 per cent of domestic violence perpetrators were arrested.1 This is a significant rise in the rate of arrest but despite this it can be argued that the arrest rate still remains low when looked at in the context of the local force policy. This incorporated the Home Office recommendations of the 1990/60 Circular that advised officers to arrest perpetrators where there is evidence of an offence (see____________________